The Lamp

March 24th, 2014 at 3:11 am (Uncategorized)

“God is the Light of the heavens and the earth.

The Parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a Lamp

the Lamp enclosed in Glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star

Lit from a blessed Tree, an Olive, neither of the east nor of the West,

whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it

Light upon Light! God doth guide whom He will to His Light

God doth set forth Parables for men: and God doth know all things.”- Qur’an (24:35)


In Week 4 we learned about the Prophet Muhammad, and the special relationship Muslims have with him. The Prophet is revered by Muslims, like Jesus Christ is by Christians, without him being deified. Muslims see him as the Walking Qur’an, and the Perfect Man. Muslims strive to become like the Prophet by imitating his sunnah, or practices. Still he is seen as human, the Perfect Man, which is the biggest difference between Muslims’ relationship with Muhammad and Christians’ relationship with Jesus.

For my artistic response, I created a non-figural representation of the Prophet Muhammad. The verse quoted from the Qur’an above is the famous light verse. Ali Asani in his book Infidel of Love, narrates “According to Muqatil, the lamp, in this verse, is a fitting symbol for Muhammad, who has been described elsewhere in the Qur’an as a “shining lamp.” ” (Asani 133). The Prophet is often connected to light imagery. He is described at times as being a reflection of God’s light, being surrounded by light , and casting no shadow.  My image is based of the light verse (above) and the comparison between the Prophet and a radiant lamp “siraj munir”. I drew an outline of an oil lamp in the style of Islamic Art, and filled it with attributes of the Prophet. These attributes are connected to Names of God in Islam. For example Al-Rahman, The Merciful, is a name of God while the Prophet is rahmah, mercy. The lamp is filled with, and radiates, the light of the Prophet.



rahmah- mercy

rahim – beneficent, merciful

karim – generous

nur – light

halim – forbearing

mu’allim – teacher

sabur – patient

‘azim – sublime (character)

wali – guardian (of the Believers)

siraj munir – radiant lamp

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An Audition for Husain

March 21st, 2014 at 4:11 am (Uncategorized)

AI54 Husain Audition

In week 5 we learned about the Ta’ziyeh, the passion play commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Husain (the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad) performed in Iran. This is a unique practice in Islam, specific to Shia Muslims. The ta’ziyeh is the only form of drama originating from Islam.

The ta’ziyeh differs from Western theater in many ways, as shown in our discussion reading Ta’ziyeh: Ritual and Drama in Iran by Peter Chelkowski. For Shia muslims the ta’ziyeh is more than a dramatic performance, it is a religious ritual. Through it the audience is transported back in time to Karbala, as if they are actually witnessing the death of Husain. The audience is overtaken with emotion, and the actors use this as part of the performance. The audience is an essential part of the ta’ziyeh, in a way not realized in traditional western theater. In the 19th century, the ta’ziyeh was performed in large arena theaters, and actors would often make entrances and exits through the audience. Depending on the staging, the audience could be celebrants of the wedding and mourners of Husain at once. Avant-garde theater artists now, like Jerzy Grotowski and the “poor theatre”, strive to reach the visceral connection with the audience that the ta’ziyeh has been creating for centuries.

For my artistic response, I decided to play on the comparison between the ta’ziyeh and Western theater. I made a mock audition video for the role of Husain in a hypothetical Western production of the Miracle Play of Hasan and Husein by Sir Lewis Pelly. I thought this would be an interesting way to represent the ta’ziyeh and highlight some of the similarities it has with Western theater. Reading the Sir Lewis Pelly translation reminded me of Shakespeare. I could imagine this play being performed as a Shakespearean tragedy. It is interesting to note that I read the role for Husain as a woman, because female roles in the ta’ziyeh are usually played by men, another feature held in common with Shakespearean times. I also wore green, because the family of the Prophet usually wears green in the ta’ziyeh, while the opponents of Husain wear red.

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A Transcendent Recitation

March 19th, 2014 at 10:05 pm (Uncategorized)


“The ears hear more than the eyes see in the written text, and it is only in sound that the full miracle is realized. Thus, while the meaning of each word may be translated from the Arabic, the Qur’an itself is untranslatable.”” – Kristina Nelson, “The Sound of the Divine in Daily Life” 

In Week 3, we learned about the Qur’an and the art of Quranic recitation. We discussed how the Qur’an is a text that has to be experienced through sound, and that its recitation is a way to commune with the Divine through sacred sounds. The clips we listened to that week, really exemplified this “sacred sound”. The clip that stood out to me the most was the recitation of Surah Al- Qadr by Seemi Bushra Ghazi. Firstly because it was one of the first times I had heard a recording of a female reciting the Qur’an. All of the CDs of the Qur’an that my Dad owns are always recited by men, for example. This gender imbalance struck me, especially since in Western culture having a beautiful voice is a quality more commonly attributed to women. Ghazi’s tone of voice also made her recitation stand out to me. She does not adorn her voice as much as some reciters do, which often strike me as excessive. Instead her voice sounds like a soothing lullaby. For the first time I understood why weeping is seen as the acceptable response while listening to a recitation. I could feel her recitation triggering an emotional response.

For my artistic response I took Seemi Bushra Ghazi’s recitation of Al-Qadr, and then attempted to translate it into musical notes played through a synthesizer. The effect of this is a breathy out-of-this-world track to the melody of her recitation. I decided to do this to highlight the transcendence of her specific recitation, and the idea that the Qur’an recited with tajwid is the sound of God. It was difficult for me to pursue this idea at first, because of the ongoing debate about music in Islam. I realize that many Muslims think that music is haram, and would therefore take any comparison of Quranic Recitation to music as sacrilegious. Discussions in class pointed out that the main difference is that music is used for entertainment and recitation is used for a higher purpose. I posit that the project I have made is not for mass entertainment, but a form of aural translation in an effort to connect it to non-Muslims who have no connection to Arabic. By stripping the recitation of the words, reducing it to its melody, I show that knowledge of the Arabic language is not necessary to connect to the transcendent quality and beauty of the recitation.

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Hello world!

March 19th, 2014 at 6:40 pm (Uncategorized)

Welcome to Weblogs at Harvard Law School. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

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